Bots: the Inevitable Change

As an ex-Google and a tech aficionado, I create many conspiracy theories and predictions. It is a fact that technology has been shaping our lives and behaviors in what we can Technological Determinism. For instance, McLuhan says that we use technology to extend our human capacities — we use the wheel extends our feet, the phone extends our voice, television extends our eyes and ears, the computer extends our brain, and electronic media, in general, extend our central nervous system.

What we’ll discuss in this article is how bots can be more than a buzz word and indeed act as an extension of our communication skills.

The human behind every bot

According to The Guardian, ‘Chat bots are computer programs that mimic conversation with people using artificial intelligence.’. Even you haven’t noticed, probably you’ve spoken with some bot in the last months. That’s because bots are being mostly used by companies and brands to spread up more meaningful conversations and support. You can check many examples of bots and AI as Google Allo, Siri, Alexa, Slack bots and many brands such as Unilever, Uber and NFL using this technology.

But mimic human behavioral is hard — we are unpredictable, right?

That’s why companies which would like to succeed in launching its ‘human’ to human conversations are investing in real people with more than a tech-savvy background. This is the case of the voice behind Google Allo, the AI-powered Google assistant. Emma Coats is a former Pixar employee who has written the 22 rules of storytelling and worked for many years as a storyboard artist. In an interview with Wired magazine, she tells us the challenges of creating a persona for Allo with an ‘easy-going, friendly personality.’ She also highlights how important is to creating a character that isn’t the hero; instead, it puts the user in the spotlight and works as a facilitator for him/her. The next hot job will be designed for poets, writers, actors and communicators rather than marketers and designers.

Bots allow brands to talk with its clients assuring that its personality is printed in every letter. But sometimes it can backfire.

It took 15 hours for users in Twitter to teach Tay, the Microsoft artificially intelligent chatbot to be a racist, sexist monster. Tay was created to talk like a millennial and learn more authentic conversation by interacting with humans online. But what millennials taught to this bot was beyond its creators’ expectation. The lack of attention in how the chatbot should conduct its learning experience is, for me, the fundamental failure in this case. Unfortunately, situations like that can happen all the time since anyone in the world can easily create a bot using the Facebook platform.

We can exploit the possibilities. There are already some agencies specialized in creating bots for celebrities. For instance, hiring the PersonaBot agency you can create your bot persona, send mass messages to your followers, get more subscribers and sell products such as s signed autographs.

Just to a matter of fiction: imagine how dangerous could be creating a chatbot for Donald Trump which could learn how to be a hater (more than nowadays) or, depending who is teaching him, become a person with some sense.

Now, the conspiracy theory

It isn’t true that conspiracy theories lead us to bad outcomes. My conspiracy theory is based on something that is already happening, and I would dare to say it’s inevitable.

Let’s begin!

According to Business Insider Intelligence, usage of messaging apps surpassed feed-based social networks for the first time:

Communication is part of our essence, right? We are a social species with an incredible communication and language skills. Our language is what differs us from the other animals and allows us to interact and give meaning to the world. The rise of apps such as WhatsApp, WeChat, and Messenger and all its features such as audio record, emojis, video and image, and call served as an extension of our language. That’s why it doesn’t surprise me when we chek this trend happening.

It is a fact that way we experience computers has changed completely. In the early days, computers were mainly used to retrieve and process a large amount of information. Information was locked inside big plastic boxes and wired systems until the 90 were when the internet was born. The internet changed the game. It allowed us to connect with each other in a way we couldn’t predict. The email started opening the ‘communication gate.’ It was almost 2000 when Google started organizing all the information of the world through a search engine. In 2004, a Harvard student developed the Facebook setting the meaning of what is ‘social network.’ In 2007 Apple launched the iPhone, the first truly personal computer and changed the way we use the internet. Nowadays we know that a brand can’t survive without a website, Facebook, Instagram, Snap Chat, Twitter (and many other social profiles), and an app (did I forget something?). Our smartphones became an extension of our hands.

We can’t live anymore without it because ‘stay connected’ means ‘stay alive.’

In a world that we take in average 35 thousand remotely conscious decisions per day, how does not pretend that information becomes more and more overwhelming?

Nowadays we are 24/7 connected. Indeed we can access all the information we need, and we want with a click. But there is still a lot of friction. We are always jumping from box to box — from our Facebook to check the latest friends updates to our Twitter to check the latest news, from our favorite Youtube Channel to Netflix to watch our favorite series; from Google search to LinkedIn, etc.

Our constant messaging contributes to the popularity of chat bots, which exist in the same context as conversations with friends and colleagues that we already have in our routine.

Reduce the friction will be inevitable to improve the user experience.

My prediction is that users will more often choose to have conversations in order to consume information. Instead of downloading an app and learn how to use it, people will request assistants and bots to do the job. What do you prefer?: You can download an app to access your bank account, or you can ask for a bot exactly what you need to know? You can search for a hair salon, call them to schedule an appointment, set this up on your agenda or you would prefer ask your personal bot to do all these things for you?

Brands have to start developing ways to be part of this conversion flow rather than create more friction points to deliver their message. Conversational bots fit exactly with this scenario.

It seems that all the leading players in the tech world have already noticed it. That’s why Facebook launched in 2016 your bot platform and Google created Allo. While Facebook is giving the power into the hands of ordinary people to create and infinite numbers os chatbots, Google is sticking to its purpose and trying to organize the world’s information through its personal assistant.

These are two different approaches to handling the same and inevitable trend.

We are already living what Fast Company called the ‘Age of You.’ All the information is accessible with a click as usual, but the difference will be that this information will be more and more tailored for you.

About the author:

I’ve been working over 6 years with digital strategy in companies such as L’Oréal and Google. I’m also passionate about team building, design thinking and technological trends.